UPDATE: Whooping cough cases in Washington top 3,000

State cases continue to climb, attract national attention

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 19, 2012, 7:34 PM

 

Washington’s whooping cough numbers continue to climb and have attracted federal attention.

One-sixth of this year’s whooping cough cases nationwide were reported in Washington state, according to health officials. The state’s numbers are the largest they’ve been since the 1940s, said Mary Selecky, secretary of the state Department of Health.

As of Tuesday, Clark County had 211 confirmed cases of whooping cough, local officials said.

The federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention will help with a study of the epidemic in Washington, with an eye toward the effectiveness of a booster vaccine introduced in recent years.

The updated numbers were published by the CDC on Thursday. Once the numbers were released, officials from the CDC and Washington’s health department conducted a conference call with reporters.

The CDC received about 18,000 reports of whooping cough cases nationwide so far this year, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, a CDC branch. Nine babies around the country have died this year after getting infected with the disease, Schuchat said.

It appears that the rate of infections nationwide this year is the highest it has been since the late 1950s, she said.

Washington seems to drive that trend. Out of the 18,000 national cases, more than 3,000 have been recorded in Washington alone so far this year, Selecky said.

A little more than halfway through the year, that state number is more than three times the total of all of last year’s reported infections.

No deaths have been attributed to whooping cough in the state this year.

The youngest children are still most at risk for the disease, Schuchat said. Babies get the first dose of the vaccine at 2 months. They need five shots of a vaccine known as DTaP to be fully protected. It is administered every few months until the child is 18 months old.

Older children are vaccinated at 4 and 6 years of age, Schuchat said.

But the disease is becoming more prevalent among 13- to 14-year-old children, a new trend. This may indicate that the vaccine’s protection fades sooner than previously thought.

Since 2006, it is recommended that children get a booster vaccination called Tdap at about age 11. The new prevalence of the disease among young teens despite the booster is one focus of a federally supported study in Washington.

CDC is helping the state’s researchers as part of what it calls “epi-aid.” The Washington study examines how long the Tdap vaccine lasts and how well it protects people.

As of late June, whooping cough was reported in 32 of Washington’s 39 counties, according to the weekly CDC report.

By this time last year, county officials counted only 36 cases, said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County’s health officer. Officials here see a pattern similar to elsewhere around the state: the proportion of infections in the 10-14-year age group has increased, Melnick said.

Vaccinations are still crucial in fighting the epidemic.

Health officials in Clark County analyzed infection rates among children who were up to date on their vaccinations, compared to those who weren’t. Kids who weren’t current on their shots were five times more likely to be infected than their vaccinated counterparts, Melnick said.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com; http://www.twitter.com/col_schools.